Texas Storms Disrupt Trucking Industry

The incredible images of empty tractor trailers being tossed hundreds of feet into the air by tornado winds in the Dallas metroplex on the afternoon of April 3, 2012 drive home the point that these storms can wreak all kinds of havoc in the trucking industry. About 100 empty trailers and tractors parked at the Schneider National, Inc. regional facility in the southern suburbs of Dallas sustained serious damage after being picked and spun through the air, a sight captured on live television. Knowing that each empty trailer weighs about 13,500 pounds makes the video even more compelling.

Schneider National representatives reported that the offices and warehouses at the facility weren’t damaged and that all employees and truckers on site at the time were safe. Clean up began hours after the tornado hit the facility as workers began clearing debris and assessing the damage to the equipment. Schneider was open for business the following morning as employees began redirecting freight shipments moving into and out of the regional facility.

Schneider National, Inc. wasn’t the only trucking faculty affected by one of the dozen tornadoes that hit Dallas and surrounding areas on April 3. Two Pilot Flying J travel plazas in Lancaster, Texas, south of Dallas, also suffered minor damage from a tornado. Truckers who took cover at the plazas reported that their vehicles were damaged by the winds, according to news reports. Both travel plazas offered shelter to truckers during the storm and quickly resumed services once it had passed. Photographs also showed damage to a Kenilworth truck lot in Lancaster, although no official reports were available on the extent of the damage.

As the severe weather season reaches a crescendo in the southern plains and the Midwest, trucking companies strive to keep drivers safe whenever possible. While delivering freight to its destination on time is the primary consideration for drivers, keeping themselves, their rigs and cargo safe should be a top consideration when truckers find themselves in the middle of severe storms.

The massive tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri in May 2011 impacted truckers through the area traveling on Interstate 44. Truckers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or weren’t paying attention to conditions and drove into the tornado’s path paid the price with overturned rigs and serious injuries. Truckers must take steps to make themselves aware of the weather that is occurring at their current location as well as what is expected along the route.

Truckers need to tune into local news reports if they notice the weather taking a turn for the worse. With today’s connectivity through smart phones and wi-fi access, updated weather information for any location in the US is available within seconds. By paying attention to severe weather watches and warnings, truckers can modify their routes if necessary to find shelter at a truck stop or business.

However, truckers who inadvertently drive into bad conditions have a few options. They should leave the truck immediately if a tornado is approaching, since it’s very likely the truck will be overturned and could become airborne. Experts recommend that truckers find a ditch or a low-lying area away from the truck so that it can’t be thrown on top of them. Experts also strongly advise against taking cover under a highway overpass. Despite videos that purport to show they are safe places to shelter from a tornado, the reality is that they often become wind tunnels. Anyone sheltering under an overpass could be sucked out by the winds or severely injured by flying debris.

The record-breaking violent tornado season of 2011 and the fast and violent start to the 2012 bring to the forefront the need for safety around these deadly storms. Truckers can protect themselves by planning ahead and paying attention to their surroundings.

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